Clowns are an intriguing part of the entertainment industry to say the least. There really doesn’t seem to be anything quite as polarizing – people either absolutely love them or hate/fear them with equal vigor – and my knowledge of this, combined with my own experiences as an entertainer, give me a huge appreciation for their craft.
Frank Sinatra appeared to be beguiled with clowns. I’ve written before about “The Voice’s” abilities as a painter and it seems his most famous paintings featured clowns as a subject, perhaps being the first subject matter he chose to paint, with some even speculating that he saw something of himself in their melancholy faces.
On a recent trip to the Palm Springs area for a performance of Drinkin’ – Singin’ – Swingin’ I had the great honor of meeting one of the premier clowns in the industry today, Harpo the Clown. Upon seeing Harpo at The Nest Restaurant, I seemed to be drawn to him, asking if I could have my photo taken with him – he is the best clown, referencing the true definition of the word, I have ever seen.
I then learned that it would seem Frank Sinatra himself had a similar experience. Almost 40 years ago the Chairman of the Board spotted Harpo T. Clown at an event at the Canyon Hotel in Palm Springs and approached him to ask if he’d allow the legendary singer to paint him, an honor to which Harpo readily agreed.
Harpo earned a degree at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, which is no cakewalk, although the odd pie fight may occasionally break out. Additionally, his mother and sister became performing clowns too, showing this art must have been in his blood right from the start. Harpo has some riveting stories to tell and I’m happy he’s putting them all together in print. Visit his website to learn more about when his book will be published.
It never seemed to me that a clown’s life was particular easy, you need to be able to project the extremes of happiness and sadness externally without letting on what is really happening internally – I suppose being a clown isn’t much different than any other performance art, or even life in general, and that may be what drew Frank Sinatra to paint them.